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Books the Founders Read: Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

“In America the law is king,” Thomas Paine declared in Common Sense. The Founding Fathers’ most important and widely-owned law book was William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Marshall, and John Dickinson all read and owned various editions and frequently cited it in their writings. [caption id="attachment_2942" align="aligncenter" width="360"] First edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries (BR...
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featured books

“ONE OF THE MOST DURABLE WORKS IN AMERICAN LITERATURE”

TWAIN, Mark. Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford, 1876. Rare first American edition, first printing, first state, of one of the universally recognized masterpieces of American literature, Twain’s irrepressible and unforgettable “true boy’s book.” $45,000.


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“THE GREATEST HISTORICAL WORK EVER WRITTEN”

GIBBON, Edward. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London, 1776-88. Six volumes.

Rare full first edition set, second state of Volume I, with portrait of Gibbon by Joseph Hall after Joshua Reynolds and three engraved folding maps by Kitchin of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire and of Constantinople, in lovely contemporary calf gilt. $36,000.


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“TRULY A LANDMARK IN AMERICAN CULTURE”

MCKENNEY, Thomas and HALL, James. History of the Indian Tribes of North America. Philadelphia, 1855. Three volumes.

Early octavo edition of one of the most recognized and desirable American color plate books produced in the 19th century, illustrated with 120 splendid fully hand-colored lithographic plates by J.T. Bowen after Charles Bird King’s original oil paintings, “the most colorful portraits of Indians ever executed” (Howes). Handsome in original deluxe morocco. $33,000.


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